Who Died and Made Him King?


He's defended our ports from the fiendish designs of Dubai; he's wrestled the White House for New York's fair share of Homeland Security pork. Now Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.)—he of the Eraserhead hairdo and shark-like smile—has declared war on the Fourth Estate.

"The New York Times clearly broke the law," King, the House Homeland Security Committee chairman, said yesterday, slamming the paper—and government leakers—for revealing a program that's believed to have helped snare a number of Al Qaeda leaders.

"The terrorists did not know that we had access to foreign transactions," King said. "This has definitely compromised our security in a time of war."

"No one elected The New York Times to do anything," King said. "They're breaking the law to satisfy their own arrogant, liberal agenda."

That's a great point—no one elected the New York Times! You could nitpick and point out that the Constitutional Convention and all 50 states have voted to protect the Times by rejecting any abridgement of "the freedom of speech, or of the press." But who knows better—them or the voters of (half of) Nassau County, New York?

As Matthew Yglesias points out, Peter King isn't alone in his sizing up this dangerous "free press" stuff. Hugh Hewitt of the prestigious Chapman University School of Law argues that Times Editor Bill Keller has decided to "risk the national security of the United States and the lives of its citizens" by reporting that US is effectively going after foreign bank accounts to thwart terrorism. The Times is blowing America's cover, which is a hell of an achievement considering we've openly bragged about our ability to shut down terrorists' foreign transactions since the months after 9/11.

NEXT: And That's Not Counting All the Money Seized from Congressmen's Freezers

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. So the fourth estate is a bunch of fifth columnists?

  2. Ideologues of both left and right have always considered the fourth estate a bunch of traitors — often at the same period, in the same country, and on the same issue. Not being an ideologue, I consider the fourth estate mostly a bunch of smug, self satisfied morons.

  3. Some see a treasonous fifth column. Others see a lazy pack of incurious courtiers who repackage and distribute administration talking points with the slightest copyediting.

  4. “The terrorists did not know that we had access to foreign transactions,”

    Yes, of course, terrorists would never suspect that the US government might have ways of gaining access to records of international financial transactions. I get so sick and tired of this crap.

  5. So the fourth estate is a bunch of fifth columnists?

    Or do they just have a sixth sense?

  6. Some jerkass was on Diane Rheam this morning criticizing “the media” and blaming everything down to the ketchup stain on his tie on “the fourth estate”. So some caller makes a point about the media having a responsibility to their readers, and he responds with some smug comparison (which, undoubtedly, he stayed up all night last night trying to come up with) between this, and “what if the media had leaked the fact that we crack the Enigma code during WWII!?”

  7. How (T)imes have changed. Can you imagine this:
    “June 27, 1943. A thirty ship convoy carrying troops, ammunition, fuel oil, and other war supplies is due to depart New York Harbor at midnight tomorrow. Anonymous Naval sources report that not enough destroyers are available for escort duty. The Roosevelt administration has been sharply questioned for months concerning delays in the destroyer shipbuilding program….”

  8. Meh. Media and government- a pox on both their houses.

  9. the public has no more a ‘right to know” about this program, than they had a “right to know” about the specifics of the d-day invasion

    this is a legal program, authorized by congress.

  10. “How (T)imes have changed. Can you imagine this:”

    Except that the NYT hasn’t published anything even vaguely resembling that, dipshit. The stories they’ve published so far are equivalent to:

    “June 27, 1943. Insiders report that the US government sends cargo to Britain via naval convoys. It is believed the US has been shipping cargo in this manner for at least a year.”

  11. Or do they just have a sixth sense?

    In any case, they’re prodigious users of the Seventh Sanctum?

  12. Or do they just have a sixth sense?

    Perhaps they’re displaying the seventh deadly sin.

  13. Oh, and Evan: the media does not have a responsibility to their readers; that’s just a bedtime story reporters tell themselves so they can sleep at night. It’s the mantra journalists repeat to themselves so the face they see in the mirror doesn’t look too much like voyeristic, pandering scum they know themselves to be.
    It’s also bullshit. The media has a responsibility to their advertisers. Full stop. End of discussion.

  14. So the fourth estate is a bunch of fifth columnists?

    Or do they just have a sixth sense?


    . . .


  15. Perhaps they’re displaying the seventh deadly sin.

    Their detractors are a bunch of eight-balls dressed to the nines.

    (Just joining in on this little Laugh-In pun session)

  16. And Born again: your joke was a perfect ten for your personality, which goes to eleven.


    (next person has to incorporate the Sesame Street count to twelve song. Bonus points for those who actually remember it. Grin.)

  17. “Perhaps they’re displaying the seventh deadly sin.”

    Yeah, but that still doesn’t make them the 8th Wonder of the World.

  18. There are no journalists on Cloud 9.

  19. VM,

    I remember!

    “One-two-three, four-five, six-seven-eight-nine-ten, eleven-twelve”


  20. Who here said girls aren’t good with numbers.

  21. Smacky:

    HA! yeaaaaaaaa. woo hoo!

    and will somebody repeat the “this goes to eleven” joke, tho? Place yer bets on who. 🙂

  22. In a sharp rendering of capital-L Libertarianism, the Reason birkenstock brigade defends politically motivated subversion, offers bobble-head nods to economists praising immigration when the issue is illegal immigration, and characterizes anti-Jihadism as bigotry.

    I recognize my gene pool, and that ain’t it.

  23. I’m celebrating the Epressany on Twelfth Night. You know, the Adoration of the Editors.

  24. Is the fourth estate a bunch of fifth columnists?

    We can’t be sure until we haul them off to Gitmo and give them the third degree.

  25. The Owner’s Manual,

    Right On!

    And by the way, can someone explain why that economists/immigration thread has disappeared?

  26. Let those who have not violated the US Constitution cast the first stone…

    Oh, wait a minute, that pretty much throws out the entire US Congress, doesn’t it?

  27. Oh, wait a minute, that pretty much throws out the entire US Congress, doesn’t it?

    Sounds like a plan!

  28. With the Censor, removal of Congresspersons wholesale would be easy and fun! In fact, “We Can Remove Them for You Wholesale” could be the motto for the Office of the Censor (with a logo something like the Wallace clan crest, perhaps?).

    I just don’t know why I’m not getting fanatical devotion for this idea from libertarians. Though the left either supports it or is making fun of it–joe has a theme song for the concept (“Der Kommissar”).

  29. You are confused again:

    It is not the Times’ freedom of speech which is being attacked, it is their ACTION of revealing (allegedly) classified information. The fact that this happens to have been done in an organ of the press via the printed word does not make their alleged crime the speech qua speech. The analogy is the proverbial Mafia boss making the phone-call to ok the hit. He is not being prosecuted for saying the words “do it”, but for abetting the “it”.

    The issue thus comes down to whether the information revealed actually is (or ought to be) classified. If not, then what the Times has done is not illegal, which does not mean it is moral.

    I suppose some on this thread would argue that absolutely no information should be classified by the government, but, they are not living in the real world.

  30. Well, it’s not like they reported on troop movements. If the government (any government) is going to classify everything and say that it’s all due to national security, then prosecuting the media for anything it does to expose “classified” data might have a substantial chilling effect on important information being reported on in the future. King wants to nail the Wall Street Journal and some other papers, too, I believe. Whether a paper should publish this kind of information is, of course, a different question if you frame it as an ethical or moral issue.

    I’d rather have a country with a free press that publishes some classified documents that a government that gets to issue prior restraints on publication (or gets to chill speech by prosecuting reporters).

    In my opinion, it’s the government’s job to keep its secrets secret. Prosecute the leakers–fine (though what about whistleblower protections?). But if the secrets get out, well, that’s tough. I see it as akin to trade secret protection.

  31. Dipshit??? LOL – were “fascist”, “neocon”, “reactionary”, and “faggot” already used today?

  32. “Dipshit??? LOL”

    I break it out for those occasions that really call for it. Suggesting that giving a broad description of a general method of doing something is equivalent to providing detailed descriptions of specific actions involving that method, particularly when the context is a demand for criminal prosecution, fully merits the application of the word “dipshit”.

  33. Then shall we prosecute Novak for making Plame’s identity public? Perhaps the true treason of the NY Times is that they never ran a story exposing the 2 F-15’s protecting the entire east coast of the United States back in 2001. Who are the smug bastards? The ones who extol the marketplace of ideas while refusing to stock that marketplace. . . Rep. King is a blowhard from the county of blowhards. So what? The day the NY Times gets indicted is the day democracy dies.

  34. Novak did not break the law by outing plame. NOBODY claims that. because doing so would not be a crime. please read the relevant statutes

    what the NYT did quite possibly IS a crime

    there is this little thing called rule of law.

    if you think it’s ok to ignore laws that keep secret intelligence methods SECRET, then fine. that’s absurd. but if that’s your opinion – wonderful

    not even some of novak’s harshest critics are making the argument that he BROKE THE LAW

    there is a VERY GOOD ARGUMENT that the NYT broke the law, not to menion doing something that is potentially injurious to the nation

    simply put, their desire to ‘get bush’ overrides any other fealty, even to their country.

    i would expect nothing less from an “organ” that still proudly displays duranty’s pulitzer

  35. Lamar,

    AFAIK there is an investigation of the Plame leak going on by an independet prosecutor. You must not keep up with the news much.

    It all comes down to “do you believe we are at war with Islamic Imperialism”?

  36. Islamic Imperialism? Say wha?

  37. “I’d rather have a country with a free press that publishes some classified documents that a government that gets to issue prior restraints on publication (or gets to chill speech by prosecuting reporters).”

    that’s a wonderful warm and cushy sentiment, but regardless of whether it was 1) legal 2) a good idea) to publish THIS story, – it is an undeniable fact that no country on EARTH exists where a govt. does not get to issue prior restraints and./or prosecute reporters for publishing certain kinds of secret information

    it has been done before in our country and it most certainly should be done again GIVEN the correct set of circumstances.

    a free press =/= a right to commit espionage or reveal troop movements, for instance as two obvious examples

    there is no nation on EARTH that would ever allow the press to have 100% free reign in the way you mention, nor should there be

    the idea is absurd.

    if you think a free press means the press can print any govt. secret that happens to get leaked to them , then you have a bizarro version of free press.

  38. The New York times risks American lives to pull in a few extra ad bucks — but the *real* story here is, apparently, that Representative Peter King is (gasp)… a *politician*! Thanks god the NYT just blew a worldwide counterterrorism op, and didn’t do something really bad like mention that an ex-ambassador’s wife was in the CIA. Then, by God, we’d need a full-scale grand jury investigation! But all they did was help keep Al Qaeda informed of the details of our campaign against them, so that’s perfectly ok.

    Sheesh. There is no other group of people on Earth as useless to the human race as professional journalists are.

  39. “Hugh Hewitt of the prestigious Chapman University School of Law…”

    This coming from the prestigious David Weigel (who?) from the prestigious Reason Magazine. You know Davey, throw away lines like that just make you sound like a pompous asshole.

  40. You know Davey, throw away lines like that just make you sound like a pompous asshole.
    No kidding. As Reason continues to devolve into a liberal publication, that sort jejune crap will only become more common.

  41. After reading Weigel’s attack on Ben Stein, I think pompous asshole is a good description.

  42. I find it ironic that those who defended the outing of Valarie Plame are now criticizing the NYT, and vice versa. Both events were the product of leaks. Both were wrong. Both were blows against national security.

    The NYT overplayed its hand. There are legitimate constitutional concerns regarding the NSA wiretapping program. The program to monitor financial transactions has no such issues. Apparently, they figured, if one story is okay, then the other is, as well. In other words, they obviously weren’t thinking.

  43. whit,

    There is, in fact, a country where the government makes no prior restraint on what can be published. It’s called the United States of America.

    Now, there are punishments for publishing stuff that you’re not allowed to publish (libel, troop movements, obscenity in some contexts), but no prior restraint. Sorry if you’re disappointed.

  44. Bush claimed “the terrorists hate our freedoms.” I guess he meant it, since he’s spent the time since trying to get rid of those pesky freedoms, along the rule of law, or at least its application to the executive branch.

    It’s pretty apalling to see so-called libertarians in this thread joining the rush to trade in hard-won freedoms, that once made the US an inspiration to the world, in exchange for a security blanket woven from the same yarn used to make the Emperor’s New Clothes.

    Freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and entry, freedom to peacefully protest, privacy of communications and financial transactions, freedom from detainment without charges and the right to respond to the charges (i.e. habeas corpus)…. All happily tossed away to allow the government to poke and prod into every aspect of private citizens’ lives on the microscopic chance they might stumble upon some magical clue that will prevent a “terrorist plot”.

    First Bush initiates a war to stop something the invaded country might do at some unknown point in the future. Then he tramples over constitutional rights and freedoms, breaks laws meant to protect citizens’ privacy and autonomy, and now is attacking press freedoms that people in other countries give their lives to obtain, all on the basis of purely speculative “terrorist” acts that might be committed somewhere sometime by somebody. Maybe. Just in case.

    And you people call yourself libertarians?! So if Bush announces interception of a rumour that terrorist sleeper cells may secretly be hiding bomb-making materials in the asses of unsuspecting Americans while they sleep, I assume you fearless defenders of liberty will be only too glad to be out on your front porch, bent over with your pants around your ankles, spreading your cheeks to help the Homeland Security agents insert their Bomb Detection Probes, and of course you won’t mind at all if they leave a transmitting detector module in there just to make sure don’t become an unwitting vector of undefined possible terrorist schemes at some unknown date in the future. Sure, it makes it hard to sit comfortably and makes you walk funny, and allows the government to monitor your location and conversations at all times, but hey, better that than the possibility, however small, of the TERRORISTS WINNING!

    Read what Thomas Jefferson and other founders wrote about the necessity of a free press and the dangers of unchecked secret government spying on its own people, and you’ll find a very sophisticated consideration of the relevant issues and a deep understanding of the tradeoff between security and liberty that is directly relevant to the present day. We’re not living in some radically different world that they could not possibly have anticipated. On the contrary, their writings make clear that this is exactly the kind of scenario they had in mind when they formulated the constitutional protections of freedom of the press and other freedoms designed to protect the citizens and the republic from out-of-control government intrusions that threaten the people’s inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.